Erik Spoelstra

Spurs, Heat both focus on defense as Friday practices become film sessions

4 Comments

SAN ANTONIO — No coach was going to put their players through a physical practice the day after that Game 1.

“Last night was extreme,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said. “It’s like trying to play you know, an NBA basketball game in a hot yoga environment. It’s not ideal.”

The conditions inside the AT&T Center during Game 1 were again the main topic of media questions on Friday, but the coaches and players were largely looking ahead to Game 2 Sunday. Making sure their guys got rest, both coaches turned Friday’s practices into film sessions and both focused on defense.

No coach is ever happy, but both were particularly frustrated with defensive lapses they saw in reviewing the series opener (won by the Spurs).

Heat coach Eric Spoelstra had good reason to be. Tim Duncan got all 10 of his shots in the paint, most of them rolling to the basket off the pick-and-roll (he hit 9 of those 10) and Tiago Splitter got all six of his shots within eight feet of the bucket and hit five (again, often as the roll man).

“We got to defend the paint a little bit better,” LeBron James said. “They did a great job of moving us around and through the pick-and-rolls they got buckets in the paint.”

Those buckets inside early helped open up the three point shooters in the fourth quarter when the Spurs hit six from deep. (and Danny Green caught fire with three of them). Although part of that fourth quarter fade from Miami was the conditions, the Heat rotations were actually fairly tight until the team wilted in the fourth quarter. Still Spoelstra had concerns.

“We have to do some things better, more committed, five men against a very good passing team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Friday before his film session. “They’re well schooled. Some things we need to adjust on….

“They move the ball extremely well, had us moving around. We were able to force some turnovers, make them uncomfortable. We need to find a little bit of a happy medium.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was his blunt self.

“I thought we made a good number of mistakes,” he said Friday at the Spurs practice facility. “I thought they missed some wide, wide open shots that they had, that scare you to death once you watch the film. That’s not just blowing smoke or an exaggeration. There were about seven or eight wide-open threes they had that just didn’t go down.”

Kwahi Leonard, who draws the task of guarding LeBron James much of the game, said Popovich was all about the defense in the film room.

“We’re in the Finals, you got to play great defense to win these games… also turnovers, he wants us to limit those,” Leonard said. “(Coach talked about) buying into our game plan, knowing our personnel, a lot of guys got some wide open looks last night and fortunately they missed, and just some of our rotations.”

Turnovers will be one stat to watch in Game 2 — the Spurs turned the ball over on 24 percent of their possessions last night, with the Heat getting 14 steals. Do that again, let the Heat get easy transition buckets again, and the Spurs will not like how the game ends as much as they did Game 1.

LeBron James says he doesn’t see Cavaliers-Warriors as rivalry

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers passes while under pressure from Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tyronn Lue said Cavaliers-Warriors could eventually match Celtics-Lakers as a rivalry.

First, if you ask LeBron James, Cleveland-Golden State would have to become a rivalry at all.

LeBron, via Joe Vardon Cleveland.com:

“We don’t look at it as a rival,” James said. “They’re a great team. They’ve been the best team the last couple years, last three years.”

“It’s just the next game, it’s Golden State,” James said. “They’re a helluva team, like I said the best team in the league and they’ve been that way the last three years, four years, however long it’s been, I’m not quite sure. But, listen, you guys know, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket for one game.”

Of course, Cavaliers-Warriors is a rivalry. These teams have met in the last two NBA Finals, played each other with relentless intensity, talked plenty of trash and remained elite.

LeBron just doesn’t want the Cavs to become comfortable. They’ve beat Golden State in four straight games – the last three of the 2016 Finals and on Christmas – and could extend the streak to five today. Beating a rival that frequently is a cause for celebration, and celebration leads to contentment. LeBron would rather keep Cleveland focused and hungry. Hence, saying the Warriors aren’t a rival.

Andre Drummond hits 3-pointer from inside Pistons’ own 3-point arc (video)

1 Comment

Andre Drummond is really good at these deep heaves.

His 3-point percentage (44%) is even better than his free-throw percentage (38%) the last two years, though that says too much about his work from the line.

Drummond wasn’t the only Pistons player converting to end quarters. Ish Smith and Tobias Harris also stepped up in the Pistons’ 102-97 win over the Lakers:

NBA: Suns got away with offensive foul before key points in win over Spurs

Phoenix Suns Devin Booker acknowledges a foul as San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker lies crumpled on the floor, in the second half of their regular-season NBA basketball game in Mexico City, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
1 Comment

Devin Booker scored 39 points in the Suns’ 108-105 win over the Spurs on Saturday in Mexico City.

But Booker’s last four – which put Phoenix up for good – came directly after incorrect calls, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.

First, Booker drew a (legitimate) foul on Pau Gasol with 1:08 left and made both free throws. The problem: One second before that, Suns center Tyson Chandler should have been called for offensively fouling Tony Parker, according to the league:

Chandler (PHX) sets the screen on Parker (SAS) and makes leg to leg contact that affects his ability to defend the play.

That would’ve ended Phoenix’s possession rather than allowing Booker to get to the line.

The other missed call in the two-minute report is trickier, because it directly benefitted the Spurs but indirectly benefitted the Suns.

Manu Ginobili got away with travelling with 59.1 seconds left, according to  the league:

Ginobili (SAS) moves his pivot foot.

But he coughed up the ball moments later anyway, and – thrilled to gain possession with a live-ball turnover rather than a dead-ball turnover – Booker turned the miscue into a fastbreak dunk.

Rather than debate how to evaluate San Antonio getting away with a travel and it ultimately helping Phoenix more, let’s stick to just the uncalled Chandler offensive foul. That netted the Suns two points. Their lead when the Spurs began intentionally fouling? One.

Russell Westbrook puts up 20th triple-double of season, lifts Thunder past Kings (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

Through 41 games — half the season — Russell Westbrook is averaging 30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists a game. Those numbers are insane, particularly considering his 42 percent usage rate. He has to put up numbers and do so fairly efficiently or the Thunder stand no chance of winning — and he has the Thunder on pace for 48 wins this season.

The Thunder picked up another of those wins Sunday night knocking off the Sacramento Kings behind Westbrook’s 20th triple-double in 41 games — 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The video highlights are above.

It’s going to be fun watching him and James Harden go back-and-forth in the MVP race for the next few months.